Profiles by Susan Mikula Campbell and Joseph Kirchmyer
One of the highlights of Alumni Weekend is the opportunity to recognize several of our outstanding graduates for their exceptional professional success and service to the community. Each dean selects an honoree or two from their respective colleges, and alumni are also chosen for the Dunleavy and Alumni awards. This year, the following 10 alumni were honored during the weekend's activities.
Rocco L. LaRocca, '39
Dr. Rocco LaRocca has spent a lifetime serving his family, his profession, his church, his community, and his country. A dentist by profession, LaRocca started his practice in 1953 at the request of the late Msgr. Pascal Tronolone, pastor of St. Joseph's Church at the time, who was looking for a dentist to serve the Italian-speaking population in Niagara Falls. LaRocca was also a dental officer to the U.S. Navy in World War II, where he served in the Pacific Theatre and was part of the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns; and in the Korean War, where he was stationed at naval bases in both the United States and in Korea.
LaRocca's volunteer work is exceptionally notable. He is a Eucharistic minister and an altar server, and assists at funerals for his parish, Divine Mercy in Niagara Falls. He has served the St. Vincent DePaul Society at Our Lady of Lebanon parish since its foundation in 1976, and volunteers at its food pantry, collecting fresh fruit, produce and bread to deliver to individuals throughout the community. LaRocca is also a member of the Niagara Falls Emergency Response Team for disaster preparedness, and coordinates with first responders to give support and medical care, if needed.
Teresa, '84, and Margaret Niedda, '85
Teresa Niedda, '84, and her sister, Marge, '85, have dedicated their lives to addressing the plight of the poor, exemplifying Niagara University's Vincentian heritage.
Teresa's focus has been on farmworker rights. As director of the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute, a unique consortium of three community-based farmworker organizations in the United States, she oversaw the development and implementation training, as well as the policies and procedures, regarding migrant farmworker rights. And as a member of the State of New Jersey's Pesticide Control Council, along with other local and national groups, she is an advocate in addressing the environmental and health concerns of farmworkers.
Recently, Teresa began working with the Vincentian Solidarity Office in Philadelphia, assisting the Congregation of the Mission with obtaining funds for its evangelization and service of the poor worldwide. These funds are then used to provide micro-project grants to mission and poor areas where the Vincentian Community serves in order to meet the needs of the poor.
As a volunteer with the Vincentian Service Corps in Philadelphia, Marge became more aware of the needs of the poor and how important it was to direct attention to their situation. Once her year of service was over, she became a member of the VSC governing committee, a position that enabled her to develop programs, select volunteers and their placements, and evaluate the results of their work. Her efforts enabled the program to expand, eventually becoming the largest VSC of the three national centers.
Marge eventually joined her sister in serving farmworkers. She is an administrator of Farmworker Support Committee, part of the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute. In this role, she advocates for farmworkers and assists with the production of quarterly newsletters and the organization's fundraising efforts.
Anne M. Patterson, '79
Nursing Alumni Council Clinical Excellence Award
Patterson is currently clinical research officer for the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C. She oversees the administrative aspects of research studies to ensure that the medical center's interests are protected, resources are used appropriately, and business objectives are met.
Back in the late 1970s, Patterson was part of a commuter group coming to Niagara from Buffalo. After graduating magna cum laude with a BSN and working a year as a registered nurse in Buffalo, she went on to Duke University in Durham, N.C., for a master's degree in health administration. Her career has been in the Carolinas ever since, focusing on the clinical aspects of care, much of it in clinical research and financial management. Her hospital operations responsibilities have covered the alphabet, from anesthesia and bone marrow transplant to trauma service and vascular laboratory.
Despite a busy schedule, Patterson hasn't forgotten the Vincentian tradition of service she learned at Niagara University. Everywhere she has lived, she has been involved in her community, serving groups such as Hospice, the American Heart Association, United Way, YWCA, PTSA and Chamber of Commerce. She is currently president of the Cape Fear Center for Inquiry and chairman of its Strategic Planning Committee.
Dr. Sheila A. Gorman, '59
Nursing Alumni Council Academics Award
Gorman is now clinical professor emerita in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. After receiving her BSN from Niagara, she served in various nursing public health positions in Buffalo, New York City and Los Angeles before arriving at Columbia University in 1972. She also continued her academic studies there, eventually earning a Ph.D. in 1982. She served in Columbia's public health program throughout her career, in positions ranging from co-director of the Ambulatory Care Institute, to founding director of the Executive Master of Public Health Program, to clinical professor.
That multipaged résumé lists many honors, board memberships, and grants to study everything from the implementation of Medicaid Managed Care in New York City to training registered nurses for management positions in community health organizations, as well as a long list of publications, research reports and presentations made across the United States.
Now retired, in true Vincentian spirit, Gorman volunteers in a health center in East Harlem, teaching reading to little children and English as a second language to adults. "That keeps me smiling," she says.
Dr. Carlos R. Jaén, '79
College of Arts and Sciences
Fortunately for us, Jaén is all about saving lives. After receiving his B.S.and M.S. degrees in biology from Niagara University, he went on to earn his doctoral degrees from the University at Buffalo. Today he is a practicing family physician at the Leonard G. Paul Family Health Center in San Antonio, Texas, and professor and chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Since 2002, he has been selected to the Best Doctors in America.
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than his well-deserved titles are his interests, which include improving preventative care for individuals of all ages and preventing complications from chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Jaén is passionate about building and studying high-performance primary care offices, and has even served on panels that helped set accepted guidelines for smoking cessation.
Jaén has devoted his life to improving the lives of countless others. And even though his new home of San Antonio and the Niagara Region are separated by roughly 1,500 miles geographically, this college is never far from his thoughts.
Jay S. Albanese, '74
College of Arts and Sciences
When he's not in the classroom or writing, Albanese finds other ways to contribute to the growth of his profession through countless hours of research, consulting, speaking engagements, presentations and volunteerism. He is also a founding member of Criminologists Without Borders, a group of criminologists, researchers, professors and others working in the field who seek to apply scientific findings and best practices to the policies and operations of crime prevention and criminal justice systems.
After receiving his bachelor's degree from Niagara University, Albanese went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. He returned to Niagara University in 1981 as a professor in the department of political science and criminal justice, and would later be appointed to chair his department and develop its curriculum.
Albanese's impressive background also includes the position of chief of the International Center at the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, from 2002 to 2006 while on loan from Virginia Commonwealth University. In this capacity, he was responsible for the development of transnational crime and justice research projects and coordination with United Nations efforts in these areas.
John D. Craig, '89
College of Education
Craig spent his early career years serving our country in the U.S. Navy. Following a six-year term of military service, he would go on to receive both his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Niagara University, and then pursue a career in teaching that began in 1990. He earned his Ph.D. in Education Administration from the University at Buffalo in 1999.
In addition to his two decades as an educator, Craig has taken an active role with numerous Western New York organizations, benefiting the community with his impressive volunteerism, fundraising and outreach skills. One of his favorite causes is Lockport Community Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization that has revitalized and created public recreation facilities, including a pool and skateboard park.
Additionally, Craig has recently completed a 60-hour documentary on the topic of young adults and financial literacy, and is also involved with WNED's ThinkBright youth literacy program.
Joseph V. Cresci, '84
College of Hospitality and Tourism Management
And then there are the deserving, those individuals who embrace responsibility yet shun the spotlight's glare. Their names may not be known worldwide, but their efforts are certainly remembered and greatly appreciated.
Joseph V. Cresci, '84, is that kind of individual ... a role model to his country, to his industry, and to Niagara University.
A member of the Niagara ROTC program, Cresci went on to attain the rank of captain in the Adjutant General Corps of the United States Army and earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal and an Honorable Discharge in 1998.
Professionally, Cresci took the skills that he learned at Niagara University and carved an impressive career in the hospitality industry. In 2000, he founded a company called Food Management Search in Springfield, Mass., where he manages the day-to-day operations for recruitment and employment search projects for organizations within the food and hospitality industries throughout the United States and Canada.
While Cresci currently resides in Longmeadow, Mass., Niagara has always felt like "home," he says. That could explain why, 25 years after his graduation, Niagara continues to benefit from his generosity and talents. Whether assisting the Alumni Association, participating in Career Day, mentoring students, or helping recent graduates and alumni in the job search process, Cresci always answers the call.
Robert M. Fitzgerald, '74
College of Business Administration
Robert M. Fitzgerald, '74, took on that challenge with vigor, and he is living proof that actions speak louder than words.
Like so many other Niagara University graduates, Fitzgerald knows the importance of giving back to the community. Among the recipients of his generosity is the university itself. Whether it's assisting the alumni relations team, working diligently on "The Promise of Niagara" campaign or just lending a helping hand as needed, Fitzgerald is never selfish when it comes to giving of his time and numerous talents.
But Niagara University isn't the only institution that benefits from Fitzgerald's community involvement. Now retired and residing in Southern California, Fitzgerald currently serves on the board of trustees for Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services, an organization that provides hope for children in vulnerable situations and guidance for families struggling through tough times. Additionally, he is a member of the finance council for the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, a national shrine.
He is also a member of the board of directors of College Savings Bank of Princeton, N.J., and serves as chairman of the bank's audit committee. He also serves as a trustee for Brandes Institutional Funds, and has served on the board of trustees of the Hotchkis and Wiley Funds since 2004, where he is also chairman of the audit committee of the Funds.
His professional life is equally impressive. A CPA in New York, Arizona and California, Fitzgerald was formerly the CFO of PIMCO Advisors, a $300 billion asset management firm. Prior to his tenure at PIMCO, he was the chief administrative officer at Mechanics National Bank and an audit partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers' Financial Services Group.
These alumni exemplify the leadership and compassion that Niagara instills in its students, serving as inspiring examples and reaffirming Niagara's mission.